Threadbare Leicester side put Watford’s lights out

Leicester City 4:1 Watford

Despite their extensive list of absentees, City were too strong for a second-string Watford side, beating them 4-1 in the FA Cup 3rd round at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.

With an unprecedented 17 players unavailable due to injury, illness and international duty, Brendan Rodgers made nine changes to his side, handing a full debut to Lewis Brunt, and giving Albrighton the captain’s armband. Claudio Ranieri made seven changes, with Watford’s relegation battle being a clear priority.
Brunt had the first chance of the game in the 4th minute, his header forcing Bachmann into a save, but City went ahead three minutes later. As a corner came in from the right, Sierralta clung to Vestergaard’s shoulder and the City defender tumbled over. Mike Dean pointed to the spot and Tielemans slotted his spot-kick low to Bachmann’s right.

Watford went in search of an equaliser, but Choudhury, in a centre-half role, blocked a Cleverley shot and then Sissoko missed the target from a good position.
City doubled their lead in the 25th minute with a well worked goal. Albrighton fed the ball to Lookman who took a touch, turned and threaded a ball into the path of Maddison who lifted the ball over the advancing Bachmann and into the net.

Things looked comfortable for City at this stage, but not for long, as Watford struck back two minutes later. A move down the right sent João Pedro into the area, and he lifted his shot over Ward and in at the far post.
Daley-Campbell was booked for a challenge on Ngakia as Watford pressed for an equaliser leading up to the break, and then had a nervous moment after another robust challenge, but Mike Dean didn’t produce a second yellow.
The Hornets went close in stoppage time as Ward stuck out a boot to save a low strike from Hernández and then pounced on the loose ball. But City took the lead in with them at the break.

Brendan Rodgers made a change for the second half, withdrawing Daley-Campbell from the firing line and giving 19-year-old Marcal-Madivadua his debut. He soon impressed, weaving his way past two defenders before seeing his shot deflected wide.
City then restored their two-goal cushion in the 54th minute. Maddison sent Lookman down the right and he sent a low ball into the path of Barnes who slotted the ball past Bachmann. An offside flag halted the celebrations, but VAR ruled no offside in a tight decision.

The 58th minute saw the King Power Stadium plunged into twilight as the floodlights failed. The crowd amused themselves with their own light display for five minutes before power was restored.
Watford seemed to regain their momentum quicker than City did after this stoppage: Brunt managed to thwart a Hernández chance, and then Vestergaard got in a vital block to send a João Pedro shot up onto the bar.
Brendan Rodgers made a second change in the 74th minute, with McAteer making his second appearance in place of Pérez.
Watford were running out of steam in the latter stages, and City put the tie to bed in the 85th minute with a fourth goal. McAteer sent Barnes charging down the left and his cross was dummied by Maddison to allow Lookman a clear shot at goal. Although Bachmann threw out a hand to save, Albrighton was on hand to sweep home the rebound.
There was still time for one more debut, with 16-year-old forward Will Alves, replacing Lookman as City looked comfortable during the nine minutes of time added on.

A patched up side performed admirably in the club’s first ever defence of the FA Cup. The youngsters all looked impressive and those players who are usually on the fringes stepped up to the mark, especially Choudhury who played in an unaccustomed role with great enthusiasm.

Brendan Rodgers was delighted: “I was absolutely thrilled with the performance – we only had eight senior players fit and they all played, and we had 10 academy products in our squad. To see them come in and perform against another Premier League club, with that understanding of the game, and what they gave the game, I was absolutely thrilled for them.”

Leicester: Ward, Albrighton, Choudhury, Vestergaard, Daley-Campbell (Marcal-Madivadua 45), Tielemans, Brunt, Pérez (McAteer 74), Maddison, Barnes, Lookman (Alves 86).
Substitutes: Schmeichel, Stolarczyk, Nelson, Braybrooke.
Watford: Bachmann, Ngakia, Cathcart, Sierralta, Morris, Cleverley (Gosling 63), Sissoko (Conteh 74), Fletcher (Sema 58), Tufan (Kucka 64), João Pedro (Forde 74), Hernández.
Substitutes: King, Kamara, Elliot, Agyakwa.
Referee: Mike Dean. Attendance: 25,710.

PHOTOS: Simon Kimber.

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Liverpool beaten by magnificent Leicester

Leicester City 1:0 Liverpool

A hugely resilient performance from a threadbare City side saw them beat Liverpool at the KPS on Tuesday night, with substitute Ademola Lookman scoring the only goal of the game.

Brendan Rodgers had to continue his plate-spinning act, making five changes to the side that lost at Manchester City with Castagne, Ndidi, Soumaré, Choudhury and Vardy coming in.
It’s fair to say not many fans were expecting a win, but in the face of a ridiculous injury crisis they were right behind the side all night.
Liverpool threatened early on but Amartey blocked Jota’s shot, and then City were on the attack, with Soumaré sending a shot over. Matip then picked up an early yellow card for halting a promising City break with a foul on Iheanacho.
But a bright start by City seemed to have been undone in the 14th minute. Liverpool worked the ball into the area from a throw and Ndidi’s clumsy challenge on Salah saw Michael Oliver pointing to the spot.
But Schmeichel made a superb save from the Egyptian’s spot kick, and Salah then headed the rebound against the bar with the goal at his mercy, and then jabbed the loose ball wide.
It was celebrated like a goal and there was a huge roar as City broke upfield.
Liverpool continued to press forward but the defence were sticking to their task. Oxlade-Chamberlain hoisted a ball into the area and Henderson missed his header, but the ball almost sneaked inside the post, before Schmeichel batted it off the line.
Henderson then ballooned a shot over the bar, before Ndidi put in a fine challenge to deny Jota.
Liverpool then got in down the right and Salah’s shot on the turn from an acute angle was heading for the top corner before Schmeichel threw out his right hand to knock it over the bar.
City had a good spell leading up to the break, a clever back-heel from Castagne sent Vardy in on goal, but Matip managed to put a block in as he pulled the trigger. Ndidi then outmuscled Salah near the halfway line and sent Vardy down the right. He slipped a ball in to Maddison, but his low cross found no takers in the middle.
Jota sent a volley well wide and the sides went in goalless at the break.

Liverpool continued to press in the second half but City threatened in the 52nd minute. Dewsbury-Hall combined with Iheanacho down the left and sent a curling cross behind Liverpool’s defence, but Tsimikas got a toe-end to it before it could reach Vardy.
Two minutes later Jota sent Mané in on goal, but the normally lethal striker lifted his effort over the bar.
This added to the belief that City could get something from this game, and they were soon a goal up.
Brendan Rodgers made a double change in the 56th minute bringing on Tielemans for Choudhury and Lookman for Iheanacho, and it quickly paid dividends. Lookman played a ball wide to Dewsbury-Hall and then went haring forward into the area. Dewsbury-Hall played a perfect ball into his path and, faced with van Dijk, Lookman opted to shoot early, squeezing the ball between Alisson and the near post.
This goal lifted the roof off the King Power, but there was still half an hour to go.
Rodgers had to make another change when Maddison injured himself tackling Tsimikas, with Albrighton replacing him.
Vardy was then floored by an off the ball incident involving Matip, but VAR judged the flailing arm in the face an accident and after lengthy treatment Vardy had to continue with no subs left.
City were gradually being forced back and had to defend a series of corners. Happily the zonal marking system appeared to have been abandoned with man marking proving to be much more effective.
City successfully defended twelve corners in the game, and when a Liverpool head got to the ball first Jota and Mané both sent their headers off-target late on.
Salah’s frustration was growing and at one point he attempted to take on the entire defence on his own before being crowded out. The pressure was growing but the defence were superb, giving Liverpool no room for manoeuvre.
In the fourth minute of time-added-on there was a bit of pinball in City’s area, but they then defended one more corner and Michael Oliver blew the whistle on an unlikely, but wonderful Leicester victory.
The injury woes may well have been added to, but it was a night to savour, with every City player playing their part. If you had to single out anyone, Thomas and Dewsbury-Hall did Syston and Shepshed proud, both performing like veterans, despite their youth.
Brendan Rodgers said of his youngsters: “Luke’s been incredible. He’s 20 years old and he’s someone who has hasn’t played so many first-team games. The FA Cup final was only his first game in front of supporters. Nothing fazes him. He’s done really well against Mahrez, and wasn’t beaten so often tonight. He’s a really good defender, tough and never gives up. You see Kiernan, his energy tonight, it was remarkable. You need legs in there, to play in the diamond, and him and Hamza did that. But he kept going right to the very end. He’s really starting to establish himself as an important player. I’m delighted for him, he’s a kid who has come through the academy, and he’s wanted to play for Leicester. It means everything to him.”

Leicester: Schmeichel, Castagne, Amartey, Ndidi, Thomas, Choudhury (Lookman 56), Soumaré, Maddison (Albrighton 68), Dewsbury-Hall, Vardy, Iheanacho (Tielemans 56).
Substitutes: Ward, Pérez, Vestergaard, Daley-Campbell, Nelson, McAteer.
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Tsimikas, Henderson (Firmino 70), Fabinho (Milner 64), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Keïta 55), Salah, Jota, Mané.
Substitutes: Konaté, Gomez, Jones, Kelleher, Beck, Williams.
Referee: Michael Oliver. Attendance: 32,230.

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Spirited Leicester comeback eclipsed by defensive frailties at the Etihad

Manchester City 6:3 Leicester City

Despite going 4-0 down in the first half, City gave the league leaders a scare pulling three goals back before familiar defensive failings led to a 6-3 defeat at the Etihad on Boxing Day.

Brendan Rodgers, with injuries now reaching an epidemic scale, made six changes to his side with Albrighton, Amartey, Vestergaard, Pérez, Lookman and Iheanacho brought in and a patched up defence that looked ominous against a Manchester City side that were in free-scoring form.
And City soon found themselves a goal down. There had already been a few nervy moments at the back when De Bruyne was given plenty of time to line up a shot past Schmeichel from just inside the area in the fifth minute.
Man City doubled their lead in the 14th minute via the penalty spot, after a Tielemans foul on Laporte.
This stemmed from City’s dysfunctional zonal marking at a corner which left Tielemans wrestling with a centre-back, while the defenders marked the six yard line. Mahrez gleefully slammed the spot-kick home and it was already looking like a it was going to be a long afternoon for the 3,000 travelling fans.
City had an attacking spell after this, and Lookman laid a ball back for Maddison, but his low shot was deflected wide. Maddison then hit a 25-yard free kick that Ederson tipped onto the bar.
But this promising spell was ended by a third Man City goal in the 21st minute. Cancelo’s low cross from the right was palmed out by Schmeichel but only as far as Gündogan who lashed it home from close range.
Four minutes later it was 4-0 when a clumsy challenge from Tielemans on Sterling saw him give away another penalty. Sterling picked himself up and gave Schmeichel no chance from the spot.
City managed to get to the break without conceding again, thanks to a superb Schmeichel save. Zinchenko’s chip into the area was cushioned to Sterling, whose side-footed volley was blocked by the City keeper.

Brendan Rodgers made a change for the second half with Castagne on for Pérez and Albrighton relieved of his right-back duties where he’d been given a torrid time by Sterling. This immediately looked like a better set-up and City pulled a goal back ten minutes into the second half with a superb break. Castagne fed Maddison, who touched the ball round his marker and found Iheanacho. Maddison continued his run and Iheanacho laid the ball into his path for a low shot past an exposed Ederson.
Thoughts that this might merely be a consolation goal were dispelled four minutes later when City struck again in similar fashion. Maddison robbed Gündogan deep in City’s half and then skipped round a challenge from Zinchenko before sending a ball forward to Iheanacho, who sent a perfect ball into the stride of Lookman, who sent a composed low shot past the advancing Ederson.
The home side went close soon after when Fernandinho got a firm head to a corner, but Amartey managed to thigh it onto the top of the bar. The resulting corner was cleared leading to a City counter. Although the Man City defence got back in position Maddison’s 25-yard shot was tipped onto the bar by Ederson and Iheanacho was on hand to net the rebound, sending the away corner wild.
The sense of unease around the Etihad was growing, but City’s suicidal zonal marking system presented them with a goal in the 69th minute. A corner came in from the right and Laporte easily out-jumped Iheanacho to plant a header home.
City almost replied directly from the restart when Maddison took a quick free-kick to send Iheanacho in down the left channel, but Ederson raced out to smother his shot.
A golden chance was then wasted when Thomas sent a cross over from the byline, but Albrighton failed to connect properly with his head from close in.
The ninth goal of the game came with four minutes remaining, underlining the futility of a marking system that should have been binned months ago. With the defenders marking the paint again Laporte shouldered the ball down into the path of Sterling who prodded it into the net from two yards out.

City’s spirited comeback had made a game of it, but they are now top of the goals conceded from set-pieces table and they need to change things. Zonal marking has been almost as damaging as the injury list this season.
Brendan Rodgers commented on his injury list: “There’s no doubt this is a huge challenge. We’re not getting the violins out. You see what we’re missing. The players aren’t available. Offensively we’re really good but if you’re missing the players it’s a real challenge. We’re not City, Liverpool or Manchester Utd.
‘Take Evans, Soyuncu, Pereira, Justin and Fofana out of our squad then it’s huge. We have to keep trying to find the solutions. We’ll continue to fight.”

Man City: Ederson, Cancelo, Rúben Dias, Laporte, Zinchenko, De Bruyne (Foden 71), Fernandinho, Gündogan, Mahrez, Bernardo Silva, Sterling.
Substitutes: Aké, Gabriel Jesus, Grealish, Steffen, Carson, Chagas, Mbete, Palmer.
Leicester: Schmeichel, Albrighton, Amartey, Vestergaard, Thomas, Pérez (Castagne 45), Tielemans (Choudhury 71), Dewsbury-Hall, Lookman, Maddison, Iheanacho.
Substitutes: Vardy, Ndidi, Jakupovic, Daley-Campbell, Soumaré, Nelson, McAteer.
Referee: Chris Kavanagh. Attendance: 53,226.

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Leicester crash out of the Carabao Cup after Liverpool fightback

Liverpool 3:3 Leicester City

(Liverpool win 5-4 on penalties)

City exited the League Cup after throwing away a two goal lead against a youthful Liverpool side at Anfield on Wednesday night.

While Jurgen Klopp made 10 changes for this League Cup quarter-final, Brendan Rodgers sent out as strong a side as he could, with Ndidi continuing in defence in the absence of Evans.
City got off to a great start. Though Liverpool were trying to press forward their midfield were making mistakes and City took a 9th minute lead. Soumaré fed Maddison who then threaded a fine ball through to Vardy who sent an angled drive under Kelleher’s arm.
Four minutes later the lead was doubled when Williams was robbed deep in City’s half and a lightning break saw Daka pick out Vardy with a low cross and he blasted it home from close range.
It looked like men against boys at this stage, but Liverpool struck back in the 19th minute. In a crowded area, Firmino laid the ball back for Oxlade-Chamberlain who crashed a shot past everyone from the edge of the area.
City continued to press forward and Kelleher made saves from Maddison and Vardy, before City restored their two-goal lead in spectacular style. In the 33rd minute Maddison won a challenge and the ball sat up invitingly for him to crash a 25-yard half-volley into the roof of the net.
An error from Gomez then presented City with a chance to go further ahead, but Vardy sent his low shot smack against the left hand post, this turning out to be a key moment in the game.
Three minutes before the break Ricardo had to give up, having tried to play on after a challenge from Morton that could have seen a red card, had VAR been in operation.

If the first half had seen City well on top, the second gradually turned into a nightmare.
Klopp made a triple substitution, replacing his younger players with Jota, Konaté and Milner, and the tide began to turn. Liverpool were piling on the pressure and only a superb challenge from Söyüncü prevented Firmino from putting a finishing touch to a Minamino pass. But Söyüncü pulled something in the challenge and Rodgers had to reshuffle on the hour. The Turkish defender was replaced by Vestergaard and Bertrand came on for Dewsbury-Hall as City went to five defenders. Things worsened after this, with the midfield weakened and the Anfield atmosphere cranked up to 11.
City’s lead got perilously narrow in the 68th minute when Minamino played Jota in and he fired a shot across Schmeichel and into the net.
It was all hands to the pump after that with City under constant pressure, content to hoof the ball upfield to no one whenever they got the chance. Tempers were also running high after a Jota elbow snapped Thomas’s head back for another red card offence that Madley missed.
Williams sent a shot narrowly wide, Ndidi smothered a shot from Firmino, and Schmeichel pulled off a fantastic save from Jota after his header diverted a Keïta shot.
City could almost see the light at the end of the tunnel, but in the 5th minute of six in time-added-on, the tie was levelled. Milner hoisted a ball into the area, which sailed over Ndidi’s head. Minamino chested it down and fired it into the net sparking frantic celebrations in the Kop.

So penalties it was, in front of the 5,200 City fans in the Anfield Road End.
Tieliemans fired his top left, for an unstoppable opener.
Then Milner blasted his to Schmeichel’s left.
Maddison sent his spot-kick high and central.
Firmino stopped during his run up, before finding the bottom right hand corner which caused Schmeichel to have words with the ref.
Albrighton opted for power down the middle to make it three out of three.
Schmeichel guessed right for Oxlade-Chamberlain’s effort, but was beaten for pace.
With Vardy having tweaked a hamstring Thomas was up next and Kelleher saved well to his left.
Keïta sent his down the middle, advantage Liverpool.
Iheanacho put his top right, and Minamino had the chance to win the tie. But he clipped the crossbar and the ball sailed into the Leicester fans and we went into sudden-death.
Betrand stepped up looking none too convincing and Kelleher easily saved his weakly struck shot.
Leaving Jota to send his spot-kick just inside the left hand post to send Liverpool into the semi-finals.

It was a crushing defeat that was hard to take after City had their foot on Liverpool’s necks in the first half.
Yet again City had seen a two-goal lead dissolve this season and there was an air of inevitability about it.
Rodgers opting for all-out defence when the Reds’ unfamiliar backline had looked shaky may not have been one of his better ideas. In the end City were beaten by Liverpool’s spirit and determination. Something that seems sorely lacking this season.
Facing Manchester City and Liverpool again in the next few days, with more defensive injuries, is a worrying prospect.

Brendan Rodgers commented: “The second half, with the injuries we picked up, we had to change the structure of the team. The first half we were excellent and looked a real threat. Coming to Anfield, and you score three goals, and we really should have had four or five, so we were a real threat in the game. Defensively you know you’re going to have to suffer at times because of the quality they have, but I thought in the second half, we threw everything at it.”

Liverpool: Kelleher, Bradley (Jota 45), Gomez, Koumetio (Konaté 45). Tsimikas (Beck 80), Henderson (Keïta 59), Morton (Milner 45), Oxlade-Chamberlain, Williams, Firmino, Minamino.
Substitutes: Gordon, Quansah, Woltman, de Araújo Pitaluga Filho.
Leicester: Schmeichel, Ricardo (Albrighton 42), Ndidi, Söyüncü (Vestergaard 60), Thomas, Tielemans, Soumaré, Dewsbury-Hall (Bertrand 60), Maddison, Vardy, Daka (Iheanacho 56).
Substitutes: Pérez, Mendy, Lookman, Stolarczyk, Nelson.
Referee: Andy Madley.

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Maddison-inspired Leicester see off Newcastle

Leicester City 4:0 Newcastle United

James Maddison made three goals and scored a fourth as City pulled Newcastle apart at the King Power Stadium on Sunday.

Brendan Rodgers made two changes to the side that lost in Naples, with Thomas in for Bertrand and Daka leading the line with Vardy on the bench. But his plans were soon disrupted when Evans pulled up with what looked like a hamstring strain in the fourth minute. His absence created an opening for Newcastle but Almiron fired into the side-netting from a tight angle.
Evans was replaced by Soumaré, with Ndidi dropping into defence. His first defensive touch saw him robbed by Wilson who fired the ball across the goalmouth leading to a corner. The flag-kick fell for Schär, whose fierce shot was blocked by Thomas. But Ndidi settled well into his role after that.
City’s first chance came after a quarter of an hour when Barnes was shoved over by Willock, 20 yards out. Maddison’s free-kick went inches over the crossbar, brushing the top of the net.
In the 24th minute another Maddison free-kick reached Ndidi at the far post, but his header back across goal was palmed away by Dúbravka.
It was a game remarkably free of scoring opportunities, or any goalmouth incidents until City took a 38th minute lead. As Newcastle attempted to play out from the back City pressed them hard, Tielemans robbed Shelvey and Maddison ran into the area. Lascelles dangled a leg and Maddison made sure he made contact with it. It looked soft, but Tielemans fired his spot-kick into the roof of the net and City had that much-needed goal.
City dealt with a couple of Saint-Maximin forays, and took the lead in with them at the break.

Newcastle had their first shot on target in the 53rd minute but Joelinton’s effort from the edge of the area was comfortably fielded by Schmeichel.
City then doubled their lead in the 57th minute. A good passing move down the left saw Maddison sending a superb flick through the Magpies’ defence. Barnes had timed his run well and squared for an unmarked Daka to tap in his seventh goal of the season. He celebrated with some impressive gymnastics.
Newcastle pressed forward, trying to reduce the arrears, but Saint-Maximin fired a shot straight at Schmeichel and then Ndidi managed to block a well-struck effort from Shelvey.
Brendan Rodgers made his second change in the 71st minute, bringing Albrighton on for Barnes.
City almost gifted Newcastle a lifeline in the 78th minute when Castagne hit a zesty back-pass past Schmeichel from 40 yards. Schmeichel won the race to clear it off the line, but only just.
Three minutes later City went further ahead. Thomas won the ball in midfield with a fine tackle and fed Daka down the left. He hit a ball to Maddison who controlled it and passed it on to Tielemans who had charged upfield. He fired it into the roof of the net, in similar fashion to his penalty, to seal the victory.
City added a fourth with five minutes remaining following another fine attacking move. Joelinton was dispossessed by Albrighton and Maddison picked up the loose ball, played a one-two with Daka through Newcastle’s back-line, and thumped it past Dúbravka.
Three minutes later Maddison was given a well-earned standing ovation as he was replaced by young debutante Kasey McAteer.
The only issue at this stage was whether City would manage their first Premier League clean-sheet since the opening day of the season, which they comfortably did.
The win moved City up to eighth place, and the mood was similarly lifted.
Brendan Rodgers summed up: “I’m pleased to come off a tough week, a European game, and get a clean sheet and score four goals. Our attacking play has been good but we needed to tighten up in defence. James was excellent. You see his quality, his composure and how unselfish he was. You also have to align that with hard work and he worked hard for the team.”

Leicester: Schmeichel, Castagne, Evans (Soumaré 6), Söyüncü, Thomas, Tielemans, Ndidi, Maddison (McAteer 88), Dewsbury-Hall, Barnes (Albrighton 71), Daka.
Substitutes: Bertrand, Vardy, Ward, Ricardo, Nelson, Brunt.
Newcastle: Dúbravka, Manquillo, Schär, Lascelles, Lewis (Murphy 62), Almirón (Fraser 62), Shelvey (Ritchie 85), Willock, Saint-Maximin, Wilson, Joelinton.
Substitutes: Hayden, Hendrick, Krafth, Fernández, Darlow, Gayle.
Referee: Peter Bankes. Attendance: 31,959.

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Leicester exit the Europa League in rainswept Naples

Napoli 3:2 Leicester City

Despite coming back from 2-0 down, City were defeated 3-2 by Napoli in the Europa League on Thursday night and now face a play-off to enter the Europa Conference.

Although City had to leave seven players at home due to a Covid outbreak at the club, Brendan Rodgers only had to make three changes to his side bringing in Tielemans, Vardy and Bertrand, with a very youthful looking bench.
The game kicked off in heavy rain at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, with the majority of City’s 600 followers still making their way to the game on the shuttle buses due to heavy traffic and bad, or malicious, planning. Covid restrictions meant that the stadium was largely empty in the home areas too.
City should have gone ahead in the third minute. Dewsbury-Hall went 60 yards down the left without a hint of a challenge and his low cross went through to Castagne at the far post. But he sent his low shot too close to Meret who blocked it on the line.
What could have been a perfect start turned into just the opposite a minute later. Söyüncü’s over-ambitious pass out of defence saw a rusty-looking Tielemans robbed of possession and Napoli attacked in numbers, Petagna’s shot deflected to Ounas who slotted the ball through Söyüncü’s legs and into the far corner.
City had a chance to equalise from a corner in the 13th minute when the ball sat up for Ndidi, but his fierce half-volley from eight yards was blocked by Rrahmani.
But ten minutes later City found themselves two down against an injury-ravaged Napoli side.
A simple through-ball from Zielinski caught the defence out, with Bertrand not holding the line, and Petagna squared for Elmas to stroke the ball past an exposed Schmeichel.
Things looked grim for City at this stage, but they got a foothold three minutes later. A free-kick from Maddison on the left pin-balled around the Napoli defence into the path of Evans who fired it home from seven yards out.
And six minutes later, City were level. Another Maddison free-kick, this time from the right, was cleared as far as Dewsbury-Hall on the edge of the area and he volleyed it into the bottom right-hand corner for his first City goal.
As the rain intensified the first half was extended as Lozano had to be stretchered off after his nose came into contact with Ndidi’s knee. All square at the break and still many permutations in a tight group.

City failed to build on the momentum of their comeback and the defence was all at sea in the first minute of the second half. Ounas was unmarked on the right and then Bertrand failed to close him down as his fierce shot was well saved by Schmeichel at his near post.
Napoli regained the lead in the 53rd minute when a move down the right saw Di Lorenzo low cross evading Söyüncü, and Elmas took a touch round Castagne before firing home from close range.
City should have been level two minutes later when they pressured Napoli from a throw-in and a wayward pass across the area reached Maddison who hit the outside of the post from a great position.
Brendan Rodgers brought Daka on for Barnes and then Soumaré on for Tielemans as City searched for the goal that could keep them in the competition. But Daka’s knock down for Vardy saw him fire into the side-netting. Dewsbury-Hall then reached a cut-back from Castagne, but he couldn’t wrap his foot round it and fired well wide.
Malcuit had the chance to seal the game with a well-struck shot but Schmeichel managed to divert it over the bar with his arm.
City’s last chance of the night came in injury time when late sub Albrighton floated a ball to Vardy, who headed it well over from close in.
As the final whistle blew, City’s final chance of redemption came in Poland where Legia Warsaw had been awarded an stoppage time penalty against Spartak Moscow. But it was saved and City finished third in a group that they had made very hard work of.
Brendan Rodgers commented on the Europa Conference League.
“I’ve got to be honest I don’t even know what the competition is. I was focused on the Europa League and winning this group and at the very least finishing second. But I am sure I will find out soon enough.”

We will all find out soon enough, but the priority now is a win against Newcastle on Sunday, and serious issues with a defence that hasn’t kept a clean sheet since the opening day of the season.

Napoli: Meret, Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Nunes Jesus, Mário Rui, Demme (Manolas 78), Zielinski, Lozano (Malcuit 45), Ounas (Mertens 63), Elmas, Petagna.
Substitutes: Politano, Ospina, Boffelli, Costanzo, Vergara.
Leicester: Schmeichel, Castagne, Evans, Söyüncü, Bertrand, Tielemans (Soumaré 77), Ndidi, Maddison, Dewsbury-Hall (Albrighton 89), Barnes (Daka 72), Vardy.
Substitutes: Ward, Choudhury, Thomas, Stolarczyk, Nelson, McAteer, Ewing.
Referee: Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz.

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Same old failings see Leicester beaten at Villa

Aston Villa 2:1 Leicester City

Despite taking an early lead City capitulated to two set-pieces, coming away from Villa Park with nothing on Sunday evening.

Brendan Rodgers made two changes to his side, with Daka in for the rested Vardy and Dewsbury-Hall replacing Soumaré in midfield.
City started brightly and created a chance in the third minute when Lookman fed Daka in on the right, but his shot was blocked by Martinez at the near post.
Play was then suspended in the 6th minute to pay tribute to Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, the young victim of a horrific murder.
City continued to dominate possession in the opening spell: Maddison had a fierce shot blocked by Nakamba and Daka sent an effort wide. And then they took a 14th minute lead.
Great persistence from Daka saw him wriggle through three challenges before sending Barnes in down the left channel. He sent a precise low shot through Konsa’s legs, across Martinez and into the far corner.
But the lead only lasted three minutes. A Villa free-kick from the left was headed upwards by Evans, nodded back across goal back Cash and then firmly headed home by Buendia. Konsa got the slightest touch with his studs to help it on its way, leading to offside appeals from City, but it wasn’t even close.
City should have regained the lead in the 22nd minute when Barnes laid a ball back to Thomas whose inviting cross fell for Dewsbury-Hall, but he sent his diving header way off-target.
Villa had the next chance, with Ramsey feeding Cash in on the right, but his low shot was blocked by the right boot of Schmeichel.
City had a good attacking spell up to the break, with Maddison having a shot blocked, and another saved by Martinez, before Thomas sent an effort over the bar. But it looked as though Villa would go in at the break ahead when Douglas Luiz crossed from the left, Cash nodded back across the goalmouth and Ramsey appeared to beat Schmeichel to the grounded ball, smashing it home from close range.
VAR, however, judged that Schmeichel had the ball under control with his hand on it for a split second before Ramsey’s contact. It was ruled out and the home fans were incensed as the teams went down the tunnel.

If City had been the better side in the first half, that wasn’t the case for the second. Villa pressed forward and created several chances, the best coming when Watkins saw his shot blocked by Thomas with the goal at his mercy.
And then the pressure told when they took a 54th minute lead, City conceding from a corner once again.
McGinn’s flag-kick from the right sailed over to the far post where Konsa, lingering unnoticed, headed downwards and beat Schmeichel at his near post. It is safe to say that City’s defending of corners is reaching crisis point.
Villa continued to play with the intensity that Steven Gerrard had demanded at half time and Cash had a shot blocked in the six yard box as City clung on.
Only after the hour mark did City manage a spell of possession and Maddison made space for himself before sending a shot narrowly wide from the edge of the area.
Brendan Rodgers then brought Vardy on for Lookman, with Daka moving to the right.
City were then carved open by a passing move that put Watkins in on goal but his low shot was blocked by Schmeichel. Villa then swept forward again, but Ramsey sent his shot ballooning into the Holte End from a good position.
City went close to an equaliser in the 75th minute, when a Castagne cross deflected up and Barnes nipped in with a looping header, but Martinez produced a fantastic save, clawing it out from under the bar.
Maddison cut back the subsequent corner to Dewsbury-Hall on the edge of the area and he was sent sprawling when Douglas Luiz trod on his foot. This happened two yards away from referee Michael Oliver, but neither he or VAR thought it was a penalty.
Brendan Rodgers brought on Pérez for Daka and then Iheanacho for Dewsbury-Hall in the closing stages, and although City now had all the possession they couldn’t find a way through Villa’s determined back-line.
Schmeichel, booed by the crowd since the disallowed goal, came up for a corner and then stayed up for a cross, but was brushed aside by MIngs in two aerial challenges.
City’s failings were there for all to see, with corners being a huge threat and a lack of aggression in the second half.
Brendan Rodgers admitted: “Our Achilles heel which has killed us is our defending of the set-piece. The only threat against us in the first half was when the ball went dead. In the second half the corner we conceded from was hugely disappointing. It’s an area we spoke about before the game. We don’t get tight enough on the marking and he’s able to squeeze it in the far post. These are undoing some really good parts of our game. It’s something we’ve got to fix.”

Aston Villa: Martínez: Cash, Konsa, Mings, Young, McGinn, Nakamba, Douglas Luiz (Sanson 77), Ramsey (Tuanzebe 84) Watkins, Buendía (Chukwuemeka 78).
Substitutes: Steer, El Ghazi, Hause, Philogene-Bidace, Davis, Iroegbunam.
Leicester: Schmeichel, Castagne, Evans, Söyüncü, Thomas, Dewsbury-Hall (Iheanacho 86), Ndidi, Lookman (Vardy 65), Maddison, Barnes, Daka (Pérez 78).
Substitutes: Albrighton, Ward, Choudhury, Vestergaard, Daley-Campbell, Soumaré.
Referee: Michael Oliver. Attendance: 41,572.

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Maddison magic earns Leicester a point at Southampton

Southampton 2:2 Leicester City

City twice came from behind to salvage a point from Wednesday’s trip to St Marys, with the second half performance being a big improvement on the first.

As City entered the hectic December schedule Brendan Rodgers named an unchanged side, but they found themselves a goal down in the third minute.
Southampton worked a short corner from the left and Tella’s low cross was met by Salisu. Although Schmeichel did well to save this effort the rebound sat up for Bednarek who netted from close range.
This early setback had City chasing the game for a 20 minute spell with Saints looking sharper and City unable to provide any service for the front line. But the visitors levelled against the run of play in the 22nd minute. Maddison twisted and turned down the right before sending in a cross that was headed away as far as Lookman who squared to Ndidi. His shot was beaten away by McCarthy, but Evans was in the right place to crash home the loose ball from six yards.
Southampton restored their lead in the 34th minute when more poor defending saw Adams nip in between Söyüncü and Castagne to get his head to a Redmond cross.
Southampton had been much the better side and threatened again just before the break, but Castagne managed to clear a dangerous ball from Ward-Prowse.
The half-time interval was extended to half an hour due to a medical emergency in the crowd, the second of the evening with a similar incident at Watford.
City re-emerged from the tunnel with one change, Dewsbury-Hall on for Soumaré, and this immediately gave an injection of pace and greater urgency to the midfield. Just four minutes into the half City were level again. with a superb goal started and finished by Maddison. Deep in City’s half Maddison comprehensively turned Ward-Prowse, leaving him on the turf. He carried the ball 60 yards upfield and then a smart move involving Barnes, Dewsbury-Hall and Thomas saw Maddison in down the left channel. A twist of the hips sent Livramento sliding off into the night before Maddison deceived McCarthy, beating him at his near post for this third goal in three games.
City went close soon after when a Maddison free-kick reached Vardy at the near post but he sent his shot over.
Rodgers made his second change in the 61st minute, bringing Pérez on for Lookman, and good work from the Spaniard soon set up Barnes who raced in down the right but saw his low shot finger-tipped round the post by McCarthy.
City looked the more likely winners now but a gilt-edged chance was wasted in the 75th minute. A poor back-pass from Walker-Peters sent Vardy in on goal, but in trying to lift the ball over McCarthy he also cleared the bar.
The end-to-end flow of the game continued, and both sides had chances in five minutes of time-added-on. Evans timely interception denied Adams, while at the other end a low Pérez shot was saved by McCarthy.
But both sides had to be content with a point and Brendan Rodgers summed up: “By the end it was two points dropped. At half-time, we might have taken the point. The second half was much better. I’ve said this before, but there is great resilience in this side, and it was a very good fightback in the second half.”

Southampton: McCarthy, Livramento, Bednarek (Lyanco 85), Salisu, Walker-Peters, Redmond, Ward-Prowse, Romeu, Tella (Broja 65), Adams, Armstrong (Elyounoussi 73).
Substitutes: Long, Perraud, Djenepo, Smallbone, Valery, Forster.
Leicester: Schmeichel, Castagne, Evans, Söyüncü, Thomas, Soumaré (Dewsbury-Hall 45), Ndidi, Lookman (Pérez 61), Maddison, Barnes (Daka 75), Vardy.
Substitutes: Albrighton, Ward, Iheanacho, Amartey, Choudhury, Vestergaard.
Referee: Robert Jones. Attendance: 26,951.

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Vardy double sees Leicester beat Watford and the weather

Leicester City 4:2 Watford

Claudio Ranieri’s return to the King Power Stadium on Sunday saw a blizzard and a 4-2 victory for City over Watford.

Brendan Rodgers made two changes to the side that beat Legia Warsaw, with Vardy and Evans in for Daka and Amartey.
Ranieri was given a rapturous reception when he emerged from the tunnel as, for a moment, memories of that glorious 2015-16 season were revived.
But to the business of the day, City created the first chance in the third minute when Soumaré slipped Vardy in down the right channel but his effort from an acute angle was beaten away by Bachmann.
At the other end a Dennis shot was deflected wide as Watford applied some pressure.
But it was City who took a 16th minute lead with an early Christmas gift. Evans played a long ball forward and Ekong ducked out of the header to allow the ball to go back to his keeper. But he hadn’t noticed Maddison sneaking in behind the backline and he fired a half-volley in at the far post.
At this point the snow began to fall and wouldn’t stop for the rest of the game.
As Watford pressed forward Hernández blasted a free-kick into the wall, the loose ball falling for Dennis whose fierce low drive was well saved by Schmeichel. A shot from Hernández then struck Söyüncü on the back and span onto the inside of the left hand post before Schmeichel gratefully gathered it.
But the Hornets levelled on the half hour and it was a another gift. A sweeping move upfield saw Dennis jinking into the area and he was brought down by a clumsy challenge from Ndidi. King blasted his spot-kick emphatically home.
But City regained the lead four minutes later. Maddison chipped a ball over the visitors’ defence and Vardy produced a sublime touch that took it over the onrushing Bachmann and into the net from an acute angle.
Vardy struck again three minutes before the break when Maddison delivered a corner to the near post and Vardy nodded it on, the ball drifting over Bachmann and in at the far post.
Vardy almost completed his hat-trick just before half-time, going one-on-one with Bachmann, but the Austrian stuck out a leg to deny him.

As the players emerged for the second half the snow was beginning to settle on the pitch and playing conditions worsened. Hernández robbed Castagne down the left and cut inside, but instead of shooting he played the ball to King, giving Schmeichel time to come out and smother his shot.
With the ball no longer rolling freely Castagne was dispossessed by Dennis in a challenge that sent him flying. Dennis strode forward through the snow and fired past Schmeichel, and a VAR check ruled no foul.
At this point the lines on the pitch were no longer visible and Andy Madley called for the groundsmen to come out with brooms and a leaf blower.
Soon after this interlude City restored their two-goal lead. Castagne, still seething about Watford’s second goal, won a bone-jarring 50-50 challenge with Masina in midfield and City broke forward. Thomas sent Barnes into the area and his low ball across the goalmouth found Lookman waiting for a tap-in.
The game was won, but City couldn’t add a fifth. Ndidi’s full-blooded half-volley struck Söyüncü in the back of the head and as he lay dazed in the snow not many people would have swapped places with him.
Then a low shot from Vardy was tipped round the post by Bachmann to deny him his hat-trick.

It was an important win on an emotional afternoon and Brendan Rodgers commented on the crowd’s tribute to Claudio Ranieri: “It was brilliant. Big applause to our supporters. It warms your heart when you see that reaction and I’m delighted for him. The Leicester City fans gave him a deserving, great ovation.”

Leicester: Schmeichel, Castagne, Evans, Söyüncü, Thomas, Soumaré, Ndidi, Lookman (Albrighton 75), Maddison (Dewsbury-Hall 88), Barnes, Vardy.
Substitutes: Ward, Iheanacho, Pérez, Amartey, Choudhury, Vestergaard, Daka.
Watford: Bachmann, Femenía, Cathcart, Troost-Ekong, Masina, Louza (João Pedro 45), Hernández, Cleverley (Tufan 45), Sissoko, King, Dennis (Fletcher 71).
Substitutes: Ngakia, Rose, Gosling, Kabasele, Elliot, Morris.
Referee: Andy Madley. Attendance: 32,020.

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Leicester top Europa League Group C as trouble flares

Leicester City 3:1 Legia Warsaw

A 3-1 win against Legia Warsaw took City from bottom to top of Group C on Thursday night. All the goals came in the first half, with most of the second half action taking place in the Legia fans’ section of the King Power Stadium.

Brendan Rodgers had planned on three changes for this crunch Europa League tie, bringing in Thomas, Maddison and Daka, but Evans inured himself in the warm-up and Amartey was drafted in.
Legia had the first shot on target early on, but Slisz’s effort didn’t trouble Schmeichel. City were soon threatening the visitor’s goal and they took an 11th minute lead. Barnes dribbled along the 18 yard line and his pass was blocked, the ball falling for Daka who swiftly turned between two defenders and jabbed the ball past Miszta. That made the Zambian City’s all-time top scorer in European competition and was a confidence booster for a side who had gone four games without a win.
Ten minutes later they were 2-0 up, following a bit of Maddison magic. He fed Lookman in down the right and received a return ball. Faced with three defenders he executed a Cruyff Turn and fired a shot past Miszta.
Legia narrowed the lead five minutes later when a Söyüncü header struck Ndidi’s outstretched hand and German referee Deniz Aytekin pointed to the spot. Schmeichel produced a fine save low to his left to block Emreli’s spot-kick, but Mladenović won the race for the loose ball.
Legia went close on the half hour when Mladenović’s shot took a slight touch off Amartey’s head to send it inches wide of the left hand post, but City restored their two-goal lead three minutes later.
Maddison delivered a corner from the left and Ndidi rose above Miszta’s attempted punch and nodded the ball into an empty net.
City had a shaky moment in defence when a Legia move down the right ended with a ball bobbling across the goalmouth but Söyüncü managed to hook it clear and the two-goal lead was intact at half-time.

The game calmed down in the second half. Thomas fired a low shot straight at Miszta, before Brendan Rodgers made his first changes in the 62nd minute, bringing on Dewsbury-Hall Pérez for Soumaré and Maddison, who had picked up a knock.
Barnes then raced through and fired his initial shot at Miszta, before sending the rebound into the side-netting. This happened in a stadium shrouded in smoke as the Legia fans orchestrated an attack on the police. Flares were distributed under the cover of a large banner, but the pyro turned violent as the visiting fans tried to tear up the sheeting covering the seats and battled with the police.
Meanwhile, on the pitch, things had tightened up and City were content to sit on their lead.
A low cross to the near post from Pérez almost reached Daka, but he was crowded out by two defenders.
Iheanacho and Albrighton came on for the last ten minutes as City saw out the game comfortably.
They had gone from bottom to top of Group C and now needed a point from the trip to Napoli to progress.
Brendan Rodgers commented: “We had a big job to do, we knew we have to win the game and to play a well as we did in the first half was equally as important. Going into the last game, if we said that we would be top before we kicked off we would have taken that.”

Leicester: Schmeichel, Castagne, Amartey, Söyüncü, Thomas, Soumaré (Dewsbury-Hall 62), Ndidi, Maddison (Pérez 63), Lookman (Albrighton 84), Daka (Iheanacho 85), Barnes.
Substitutes: Bertrand, Vardy, Choudhury, Vestergaard, Stolarczyk, Marcal-Madivadua.
Legia Warsaw: Miszta, Johansson (Holownia 45), Wieteska, Jedrzejczyk, Ribeiro, Soares Martins (Celhaka 71), Slisz, Mladenovic (Skibicki 71), Muci, Emreli (Wlodarczyk 78), Lima Linhares (Pekhart 78).
Substitutes: Rose, Tobiasz,Ciepiela.
Referee: Deniz Aytekin.

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